The political context of social inequalities and health

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This analysis reflects on the importance of political parties, and the policies they implement when in government, in determining the level of equalities/inequalities in a society, the extent of the welfare state (including the level of health care coverage by the state), the employment/unemployment rate, and the level of population health. The study looks at the impact of the major political traditions in the advanced OECD countries during the golden years of capitalism (1945-1980) - social democratic, Christian democratic, liberal, and ex-fascist - in four areas: (1) the main determinants of income inequalities; (2) levels of public expenditures and health care benefits coverage; (3) public support of services to families; and (4) the level of population health as measured by infant mortality. The results indicate that political traditions more committed to redistributive policies (both economic and social) and full-employment policies, such as the social democratic parties, were generally more successful in improving the health of populations. The erroneous assumption of a conflict between social equity and economic efficiency is also discussed. The study aims at filling a void in the growing health and social inequalities literature, which rarely touches on the importance of political forces in influencing inequalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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